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The anatomy of the chase

Robert Millar
July 18, 2013, 02:53,
July 18, 2013, 03:55
Tour de France

Why Rodriguez will be a man to watch

Yukira Arashiro (Europcar) leads the chase

Yukira Arashiro (Europcar) leads the chase

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Racing is all about making the right decisions, sometimes you have to make them instantly or your chance is gone but other times you have plenty of time what to do.

Take the dilemma of Pierre Rolland and Europcar on the Ventoux stage, the Polka-Dotty Frenchman missed the day's break when it was a good chance for him to sneak off and get some GPM points so he pondered what to do. While Team Sky set a controlling tempo which wasn't going to pull them back he thought about it much too long and the 20-man group gained a few minutes. Then someone decided it really would be better for his spotty future if he was in that break after all so he set off in pursuit, one against 20 who hold a few minutes lead. Of course he's deluded and has fat chance of making it but he insisted and got stuck in no man's land halfway across the gap, on the verge of blowing completely he quite rightly sat up and hoped for another day. Then the DS in the Europ-car decided to make his soldiers chase the break, presumably as punishment for having no one in the 20 and consequently they reduced the gap but in the process they fell apart too.

Over at Movistar someone then calculated it was a manageable situation and decided it was their turn to put men to work, no doubt thinking Quintana could win the stage if they kept the gap to a couple of minutes at the bottom of Mont Ventoux - which to their credit they do. But it cost them all their men and in the meantime Sky were sitting pretty, waiting for the last fight to the base of the climb.

And just as what has happened in every race that Sky has riders left when the last climb starts, the men in black set a speed which sees tickets issued to those leaving the train. So when Quintana attacked for the stage win Chris Froome still had two riders to control that gap. Peter Kennaugh did a great job for five kilometres then Richie Porte took over and the scramble to stay in the GC group got very serious. When the yellow jersey decided it was time to go even Contador was blasted out and then it was only a matter of when he caught the Colombian, not if. It was no surprise Froome won at the top of Ventoux as he's been the best climber in the race but the way the others rode beforehand, it was if they hadn't noticed when they take him to the last mountain he kicks their backsides.

What were Europcar doing chasing? All they did was wear themselves out and allow Froome to become part of the mountains prize equation, an equation which Rolland looks like he's out of now. And what were Movistar thinking? Instead of putting the yellow jersey team under pressure in the final all they did was give them an easy ride.

It's not just Europcar and Movistar that have come up with the questionable tactics whenever Sky have been in trouble others have ridden with them when they could have left them to sink completely. BMC and AG2r rode on the side wind day when they didn't have to either and have continued to ride as if they have decided to settle on their GC placing already. Belkin I can understand riding sometimes as those guys are hanging on in hope but Evans, van Garderen and guys like Peraud were surviving; they have had no influence on GC proceedings yet they continued to ride as if they had.

Heading into the three big mountain stages if no one gets their tactics sorted then Sky will be doing what they have always done, controlling to the final climb and then putting Richie Porte on the front until it's time for Froome to finish it off. It's not exactly rocket science in terms of strategy but other than isolated moments the other teams have let that happen all too often. It wouldn't be so bad if they had no choice but with Sky being weaker than before the other teams have made some strange decisions.

One thing I never thought I'd see, Joaquim Rodriguez almost winning a time trial. Chris Froome winning from Contador is no surprise but Purito chasing them hard, now that's worth noting. He and Katusha could well hold the cards to how the final stages play out.

Snitor More than 1 year ago
"Then the DS in the Europ-car decided to make his soldiers chase the break, presumably as punishment for having no one in the 20 and consequently they reduced the gap but in the process they fell apart too. (...) What were Europcar doing chasing? All they did was wear themselves out and allow Froome to become part of the mountains prize equation, an equation which Rolland looks like he's out of now." So true.. Terrible decision.. Good post again..
Alfredo Castaño Amaris More than 1 year ago
Indeed. Robert Millar's posts give a lot of "insight" about what happens on the road yet again. Looking forward to the next one! Europcar aside, it does seem Movistar tactics' have been on the bad side for most of the tour, losing Costa's GC top-10 spot together with Valverde's, having Quintana attack at the wrong moment already twice and having had so far relatively little leverage "team-wise" (other than stage 9 coup againsst Porte).
Nigel Brown More than 1 year ago
The stage 9 coup was instigated by Garmin-Sharp. Movistar acted as Froome's teammates for most of the stage. Valverde, Costa and Quintana versus Froome and they put zero seconds into him.
Latvian More than 1 year ago
change movistar's manager to someone else!
Latvian More than 1 year ago
its not so much riders fault, i think movistar is a strong team and could have got 1 or 2 places on podium, its just that their tactics are probably the worst in the whole peloton...
João Sá More than 1 year ago
right on! I still can't understand why Quintana (for 2 times!!) attacked with 11 or 14 km or more to the end of the stage! And he says he's not chasing the podium... I don't understand. And the chase of Movistar in the second day on the mountains only kept Porte away from GC, nothing more. Movistar came with one of the best teams in this Tour and we leave with one or two jerseys and one or two Top 10..
blueisola More than 1 year ago
+++1! Can't help but think that had Quintana waited on those two attacks he would actually be sitting just behind Froome on the GC. And they all should have buried Froome on the Stage 9 Sky breakdown. That was the biggest missed opportunity of the Tour.
tunguska75 More than 1 year ago
I wonder if Robert's idea on tactics reflects being from an era where riders had to think for them self.
Rodger Caldwell More than 1 year ago
Clearly they are. Cycling unfortunately seems to be going the way of many other sports with pre-programmed athletes filling team places. And Sky are in the vanguard of this movement!
BendGoat More than 1 year ago
Froome will hopefully ride aluminum hoops on the first ascent of the Alpe then do a bike change for the second trip up. Carbon wheels down that descent is crazy.
Murali Parameswaran More than 1 year ago
Nice article. At last, an article in CN stating clearly why the teams need a separate tactical advisor. Also, proof of why Sky is in the front, even if their tactically they are worthless.
Real Estate Queen More than 1 year ago
Millar's comments are spot on, especially when taking into account the benefit of hindsight.
coinneach More than 1 year ago
At the British Champs, Cav was asked: "Was it Sky against the rest out there?" To which he replied: "No, it was the rest against Sky" I think Robert sees the world this way, and things that everyone should be against Sky I think most teams have decided that Froome is just too strong this year, and are engaged in their own private, sometimes futile battles. I agree with him about Rodrigez, but I don't remember him going from far out to make enough damage before
Nigel Brown More than 1 year ago
I posted a similar comment to this article in response the all the doping claims that arose directly after the Ventoux stage and only got one response in support.
mike73nz More than 1 year ago
Not surprised Nigel, unless you were accusing Froome of doping while having no evidence whatsoever, you wouldn't get alot of comments. Sad really that good comments are overtaken by the skyhaters on this site who continue to argue that Team Sky are doping while not being man enough to point the finger at everyone else. Either they all are or it is now a relatively clean peloton. No evidence on Team Sky as there is none, if there was David Walsh would have found some. The tactics as you pointed out are one of the main reasons why Froome and Team Sky are winning this tour.
grumpy-badger More than 1 year ago
Aye, Dave Walsh would find it he is the Sherlock Holmes of Cycling, nothing gets past him!
perico More than 1 year ago
Nah. Kimmage is. Walsh can be a hagiographer at times.
NickHu More than 1 year ago
Excellent article as always Robert. I don't think Sky have always got it right this Tour though, as Ritchie Porte made the chase after Froome and Contador went down on the stage to Gap. Surely the tactically smart thing to have done would have been to make Contador work - he had the most to lose and if things had started to look like they were getting out of hand for Sky they could have then got Porte to work.
avantage More than 1 year ago
So true, every time Sky needed help, there was help from other teams. Especially on the windy stage. Too bad.
Robert Millar

Robert Millar was one of the last pure climbers of the Tour de France, winning several stages in the mountain stages and finishing fourth overall in 1984. He is also the only English speaker to have ever won the prestigious polka-dot jersey climber's competition jersey.

Millar retired in 1995 but has continued to follow the sport closely. He was often critical of the media and quickly cuts through the excuses and spin to understand why and how riders win and lose.

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